Into the Dark Sanctum

June 26, 2017:

A handful of supernatural beings finally find and confront the Demon Lord Bal-Pteor

North Brother Island, New York


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The last week has been… slow at the Sanctum. Research, research and scrying. On very little benefit. Strange found a couple thralls doing unknown errands, but they are little more than animated corpses animated by demonic essence. Even spying Bal-Pteor’s domain in Nero’s Hell was disappointed. The demon lord has been absent six months and his lieutenants seem busy with weird tasks their master set upon them and that seem designed to keep them at each other’s throats.
Business as usual in Hell.
Only yesterday news arrived from the spirit world. Someone sinister has taken over one of the less pleasant haunts of New York, the abandoned hospital at North Brother Island. Scrying showed nothing unusual, but mystical teleport into the island was impossible for either Strange or Illyana. That alone was revealing. And alarming. No demon should be able to deceive the Orb of Agamotto like that!
So a quick meeting was requested for those involved in the case, at the Oblivion Bar. But attendance was surprisingly scarce. Another alarming sign. Looks like the enemy is able to block some magical communication, too.
Strange and Magik are here, and… “Master Darkedge,” greets Strange, looking mildly surprised.

It was word from the spirits, the unresting human souls who have come to learn the black-clad elf was a friend of a human who attempts to help them, one Elinor Ravensdal, that brought Darkedge. It was a trail of markings the elf knew to be intentional that brought him, and he made his way to the human magic wielder with a cold expressionless almost scowl.
To the greeting the silver haired elf merely nods. His breathing, as Stranger might recall, remains shallow and the whites around the metallic color of his eyes is still a faint red of irritation.
<Whispers have it… I might be needed,> The elf sends telepathically, pressing his thoughts toward the two humans at the table, humans he can almost taste the magic drifting from. He doesn't shove his thoughts into the minds. It is most like he sets them out into the air around them, giving them the chance to sense the thoughts and then collect them for themselves.

Illyana's had other concerns lately, her obligations to the more mundane world of mortals and mutants having had to take precedence over demon hunting, so she's been forced to leave that side of things to Strange.
She should probably be concerned that the particular demon they've been hunting is apparently powerful enough to conceal itself from the Sorcerer Supreme, but instead she's a little smug that Strange hasn't had much more luck than she has. She's odd that way.
Illyana does, however, still have scores to settle with Bal-Pteor, so even the sniff of a lead is enough to bring her to the Oblivion Bar at the side of her supposed master. Hearing the surprise in Strange's voice draws a sidelong look from Illyana, and the scowl Darkedge is wearing causes her lips to twitch into a smirk. Illyana's thoughts are well protected, but if they can be said to have a flavor, there's a demonic tang to it. "Friend of yours?" She asks Strange.

Strange tilts his head to the blonde sorceress. “Too soon to say,” he comments, standing up. “Master Darkedge, a famed warrior from Avalon,” he offers, “Queen Illyana Rasputina of Limbo. She has fought our enemy once already, and lived to tell.” Introductions done, he nods to the elf, “I expect so, yes. We are in need of help - I suspect the situation has become quite urgent. My influence over the city is quickly waning and this… I cannot explain easily, but my intuition is I-we are almost out of time.”

Warrior. Assassin. Is there a difference to humans? Introduced to a Queen, the elf settles his gaze upon the woman as he brings his right hand up to close into a fist over his heart. He bows then, though does so without removing his gaze - or his peripherial vision - from Illyana (and Dr. Strange). Introduction done, the turns much of his attention to Strange.
<And what is it that you think I could do for you since your human magics fail you?> Darkedge questions with arrogant and haughty aloofness. His hand returns to his side, the scowl fading toward something like a faint non-committal interest in those he is 'speaking' with. For all that he was introduced as a warrior, Darkdge seems not to have a single weapon upon his lean frame.

Illyana's smirk becomes a little more obvious at Strange's noncommittal answer, as she idly wonders how he'd answer that question if someone asked him it about her. While she's musing on that, the Doctor begins the introductions - and catches her by surprise. She hides it well, but it's still there in a slight widening of her eyes, and the furtive glance she shoots him. It is, of course, true - Limbo IS her domain - but to most that's an inconvenient fact they prefer to ignore. Diplomacy and status mean something here, then, and Illyana is a quick study. There's no hint of surprise when Darkedge salutes and bows, Illyana just inclines her head in gracious acceptance. And does Darkedge the courtesy of not taking her eyes off him, either.
The elf's disdain for the two of them doesn't seem to offend Illyana, in fact she's smiling a small, almost delighted smile. "Well that's just it. Since we haven't been able to put this demon back in his box with our 'human magics', we thought you might like to show us how it's done." Illyana's smile broadens as she makes it a challenge.

Oh, the famed Limbo diplomacy, and yet. “She is not wrong,” comments Strange, addressing the elf. “Our enemy seems well-prepared for us, but perhaps he won’t be ready for you. And I had hoped the warrior-shaman would be here too, but we can wait longer. Please follow me.”
Out? No. Instead Strange leads the odd pair deeper into the Oblivion Bar, through halls and cellars that look have been unused for years, decades. He conjures a small shadowlight to keep them from stumbling into old furniture and finally to an ancient-looking wooden door. “Like Limbo the Oblivion Bar is a transit dimension. Perhaps tamer, but still tricky. This door should take us to North Brother Island.” ‘Should’ being the keyword. But Bal-Pteor manipulations shouldn’t have reached Oblivion. Hopefully.
The door opens into a dark room. Faint, sickly yellow light filters through narrow, broken windows. The floor is dirty, full of debris and shattered glass stained red and brown. This is the light of New York buildings in the distance, but it was a little after noon. The watches say 1pm. And yet, it is nighttime.
The stench of dark magic is heavy in the air.

A challenge? Darkedge quirks a single silver brow. His lips twitch; the want to smirk. His eyes glide to Strange then, studying the magician a moment before falling into step with this unlikely group. As the door opens and a sickly yellow light hits his eyes, the elf sneers and then he gags silently, bringing the back of a hand up and twisting a bit away. He's gagging and coughing and fighting to keep both things silent or as near it as possible. Likely, he couldnt be heard unless one were right near him.
<Dark magic abounds,> he sends now, working to narrow his thoughts so that only those minds here he knows can hear him… which means only Strange, for Datkedge knows the feel of his mind. The shields protecting Illy's mind prevent the elf from learning hers enough to easily include her.

…and yet, Limbo diplomacy has delivered the desired result. Illyana keeps her eyes on Darkedge as Strange backs her up, and she's rewarded by that small movement of his lips. Who can resist a challenge, with the opportunity to prove ones superiority, anyway? That might have something to do with how Illyana herself got involved in this mess to start with. Well, that and a healthy thirst for revenge!
Illyana follows the Sorcerer Supreme through the depths of the bar, unable to keep from asking, "You're absolutely sure you know where you're going?" Just once, as they traverse a particularly abandoned-looking chamber. When the final door is cracked, however, Illyana keeps her comments to herself and steps through.
There's a quiet crunch as the demoness' boots grind the glass and assorted detritus underfoot, but that's the only sound from her as she moves further into the room. Her eyes narrow. There's something… unfamiliar. It's not what she's expecting to feel, having been in the presence of their prey before. The stifled sound of the elf's distress has her swinging around, and from nowhere the Soulsword is in her hands, as her eyes flicker quickly to Strange, a silent question in them.

Strange’s eyes narrow, his perception of the darkness less an obvious sense for him but likewise strong. “Yes… yet no demon sorcery. This is unexpected.” A step forward and his shoes crunch glass too loudly. Sighting, he dispels the illusion of normality. The cloak of levitation manifest in all its gold and red glory, and his mundane, stylish outfit becomes a blue tunic, loose pants and soft leather boots.
Much quieter now. “I cast some concealment spells, but it would be foolish assume we can sneak in for long.” He reaches for the golden amulet handing from his neck, loosening the seals. “This way, I think…” he heads out, into a dark tunnel that shouldn’t exist inside a human-built hospital.
The place is quiet but for the whispers of ghost long gone insane.

Darkedge's cough is part nausea and part faint wheeze, but as the group continues forward, he forces control over his body. On silent footfalls he advances and in each hand diamond long knifes seem to slide from the sleeves of his jacket. They are too long to have been sheathed along his forearms, and they manifest with a soft whisper of elf magic.
<It is stronger there,> notes the elf, still keeping his mind tightly locked to Strange. Silver eyes flick to Illyanna.
"Your mind; a thing I cannot sense," he half whispers half murmurs at her. There is a breathless quality to his words, as if someone with constricted breathing were speaking. The cadence is also odd, inhuman, lilting over four beats and not five as is usual for iambic pentameter. His voice is deeper than his frame suggests, and gravelly as if he has not spoken aloud in months.

Illyana's brows rise slightly when Strange seems to take no notice of the possibly-choking Darkedge. She hadn't figured him to be so callous… but maybe he knows something she doesn't, since the elf manages to get himself under control. Illyana eases back from her battle-ready stance, propping the Soulsword on her shoulder. "I'll ask again." Illyana says, drolly, as Strange gives voice to what she's been thinking. "Are you absolutely sure we're in the right place?" As the Doctor moves off into the tunnel, Illyana snorts softly to herself. "I guess so." She says, under her breath, and moves to follow, hesitating when Darkedge finally deigns to speak to her. She studies him appraisingly for a moment before she replies. "I can do something about that." She finally says, in a casual tone, before smiling. "You just might wish I hadn't." Her mind's out of reach because she's not entirely human, her demonic nature shielding her mind. With a small effort of will, she pushes aside those demonic shields. She's done it for mutant telepaths, hopefully the same holds true for Darkedge.

"Indeed it is, warrior, the intensity is almost blinding," he nods to Illyana. She should be able to sense it is going worse too. If she doesn't… that will be the lesson next Friday. Train your senses, disciple.
Strange goes quiet as a trio of figures seem to slide out of the darkness. Humans in rags, but not moving like humans. Demon thralls standing watch, apparently. With a hiss and a snarl they jump forward, trying to skewer the intruding trio with their claws. "We are close indeed," whispers Strange, falling into a fighting stance, but wary to cast a spell as to avoid drawing attention. But the Cloak shifts to protect him.

<I find he makes me seem positively civil,> Darkedge sends tightly to Illyana the moment she opens her mind to him. The demon nature of it does set him on edge, but as long as he just pushes thoughts toward what he can sense as Illyana's mind without listening in unless she presses thoughts at him, he should be alright. The ill-ease is not really all that different from the expression from before, the slight tension in his eyes that seems like his eyes itch from an allergy.
<I was going to say suffocating,> the elf quips now, more publically as the three continue down the halway.
Up ahead. Three figures in the dark. Darkedge spots them just as they begin their charge. The elf moves.
Noting that Illyana has a blade of her own and Strange does not, the elf moves to kill the ones moving for himself and the human sorceror. It's a step at Strange's back, those diamond blades glinting in the low light, before the elf vanishes into the man's shadow. He reappears behind the one closest to his target, to Strange. Diamond blades stab and slice as Darkedge uses the short shadow-based teleport to all but land on the thrall's back. Each attack is lethal and it's clear hte elf is highly skilled at hitting vital areas the first time.
In the same motion teh elf uses to pull a blade free, he throws it at the second opponent, catching it in the throat and then shoving himself tot he side, off his first victim, and back up to his feet to face off against the second should a gemstone through the neck not be enough to stop him. The first having been put down with a knife to the heart and the lother to the liver, both delivered from behind.

Illyana's head turns as if she can feel Strange's eyes on her, and she answers his nod - and the implied lesson - with an almost playful grimace. "So the feeling of brooding evil I'm getting isn't all in my head? Good to know." Her tone is light, almost cheerful. Brooding evil doesn't seem to be bothering her very much, all told.
Illyana doesn't jump when the thralls slink out of the shadows, and quickly shows that her sword isn't just for show. Where Darkedge moves ahead to cover Strange, Illyana darts to one side, avoiding a thrall's initial attack, aiming to split their opponents. The Soulsword flares with a silvery-white light in her hands as the thrall lunges past her, off-balance now, and she swings her blade in a vicious arc that should open the thrall from hip to shoulder.
Of course, the Soulsword being what it is, the blade passes right through the figure without resistance. The dark magic animating the thrall offers no greater resistance, and the ragged figure collapses in a heap at her feet.
Illyana whirls around, sword raised a ready, then relaxes with a look of disappointment when she sees that Darkedge has everything in hand. "You're felling better." She remarks.

Despite the speed of the demons, Strange seems unworried, and when the one going after him attempts to claw his throat open the Cloak of Levitation slides forward and deflects the claws as if it was the finest steel and not just cloth. Then the sorcerer kicks at the creature's knee, but even before the blow lands Darkedge's blade has gone all the way through the thralls neck, slaying the monster instantly. Strange just pushes the corpse aside.
"Nicely done," he remarks, seeing Illyana also took off her enemy with a single strike. "Now, if only we managed to remain unseen I think we are very near…" but laughter interrupts him.
"No. You are not unseen. But you are welcomed here," the voice is a clear baritone, polite if mildly mocking. It seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. "Particularly you, my little demon. I was only reluctantly I left our games early this year. But as you can see, I had some serious work to attend to."
Reality bends, space warps, and suddenly they are not halfway the tunnel, but at the end of it. The stone portal leading to a large chamber of brick and white tiles. It must have been part of the hospital, maybe a common room, but it is warped into something larger and much stranger. An unholy sanctum, dark mirror of Strange's house.
Lit by a hundred candles, the heroes can see a dozen thralls slowly sliding towards them. But stopping when a tall, dark-haired man clad in modern leathers speaks a world in an alien tongue. Around the room, in cages, hang the corpses of two dozen creatures, most were human. One was obviously a vampire, in a cage of ash wood, and it might be he is still undead in the way those monsters cling to unlife so strongly. If so he is the only one, most corpses are rotting.
Two cages are empty, though. One is made wrought iron, spiked and cruel, and the leather clad man looks at Darkedge, and then to the cage, smiling cruelly.
Illyana would recognize the demon's human guise.

Darkedge watches as his last falls face down next to the other. There's a single cough, before he swallows down the urge to cough further.
He steps toward the one with his blade still in his throat, fingertips touching the tip of hte blade, causing it to shift nad ripple until what was blade is now handle, and Darkedge smoothly pulls the weapon free. Breath measured the elf is about to comment when Strange's words are cut off by laughter. The world distorts around them. The elf frowns and tenses.
Looking around, Darkedge how little sympathy for the humans as humans but rather as captives. It's the cold iron cage that has the elf sneering and turning his silver gaze on the demon. He prepares for a fight, though will await Strange and Illyana. The elf would like them to help distract this thing, that knows that which injures the fae.

Illyana's lips draw back from gritted teeth as she hears that voice. It grates on her nerves like fingernails down a chalkboard, reminding her of the debacle that was her last confrontation, while the edge of mockery is enough to spark her temper. It's with an effort she controls it. Getting angry didn't help last time. "You were so charming I couldn't keep away." She replies to the air, forcing a light tone into her voice, but there's a tension underlying it that speaks of her leashed anger.
She dislikes being pulled toward the profane Sanctum, and when the world reforms around her, silvery armour covers her left shoulder and arm. She casts a deliberately slow gaze around the cages, cold blue eyes betraying no reaction to the captives, or even to the thralls as they close in, even as she takes up a defensive position, her blade up and ready. "I don't think much of what you've done with the place." Illyana tells the demon, her blue gaze even more chill than before as it finally lands on him. "If you need a decorator, I can give you some numbers."

“Your disapproval wounds me,” replies the man with a mocking smile. “I had hoped we would be friends, maybe more than friends. I heard you betrayed the Elder Gods, I am… impressed.”
Strange has been quiet, but studying the evil sanctum, and now he acts at last. “I think not. Your ritual ends now. You will not take my city to hell,” he is gathering power, it is very obvious and quite impressive, no normal human should be able to gather so much mystical power so quickly.
And the demon smiles, shifting to his demonic form in a flash. Half a foot taller, horned and darked skinned, a golden staff in his clawed hands, somehow he still manages to be handsome in an alien way. “I think not, too. And I have the Staff of Griefsavor. The Vishanty have no power here!” The staff hits the floor and Strange screams, magic flashing out of his body. “In the name of the Trinity of Ashes, kneel!”
The thralls move forward.

…. Owlpellets ….
Darkedge knows posturing when he hears it, even if the topic of conversation goes over his head. He watches the thralls as the three 'humans' play who's is bigger, so when they move forward Darkedge is ready to teleport into them, only find he doesn't move.
A blink.
Dammit. Again?
The elf sneers and looks back at the demons.
Fine. The 'fun' way.
Darkedge moves toward the thrall. He seeks to engage them in a physical fight, to clear this threat and protect the silly human behind him. Illy is not altogether human… and certainly not silly. Too much dark magic here for the elf to sense what happened to Strange's magic. Not unless the elf takes the time to think about it. Right now though, must keep the thralls from ripping the male to pieces.
All while his lungs burn with the want to cough and his left shoulder is starting to ache.

It's hard to sound so offhand when you're trying not to grit your teeth, but Illyana's giving it a try. "Sorry, you're not my type. And what can I say? The Elder Gods wanted the Earth. I wanted it more. Think I'll let you have it?" The disgust that's been seeping into her voice positively drips from her final words. When Strange flatly announces his defiance, Illyana grins evilly. Payback time…
…or not. When Strange screams, Illyana curses fluently in a particularly obscene demonic dialect. "Don't let him win, Stephen." It sounds more like a warning than encouragement.
As Darkedge gets stuck in, Illyana raises a hand, palm out, fingers clawed, and mutters a swift incantation under her breath. The mystic bolt she summons leaps from her palm toward a thrall, but Illyana doesn't hang around to see how much of an effect it has. She takes a couple of swift steps forward and sweeps the Soulsword out in a wide arc, trying to clear some space, aiming to cover Strange's other side.

Strange kneels, jaw clenched. “The Trinity of Ashes, they oppose the Vishanti, such is the black magic we felt… not demonic… he has made a pact…” all very interesting, but sounds pretty useless, right?
Most of Strange’s artifacts come from the Vishanti, and are completely neutralized, as are his titles and incantations. But not all, he still has his Cloak, and human master mages are still devious, dangerous people.
Which is why Bal-Pteor flings a bolt of energy at Strange. To take him out for good. Strange raises a shield, but it shatters like glass, and the impact sends him rolling over the tiled floor. Another blast is launched, and he is too stunned to lift a finger.
The thralls come fast and strong, but their crude strength does not make them equal to Darkedge in a fight. The first dies, throat cut, the second dies, stabbed through the heart, but there is a third, a fourth and… a lot more. Clawing and punching. Trying to drag the elf down and tear him apart.
But them the third one takes a forcebolt to the face before he can eviscerate the elf, and stumbles back momentarily stunned. The fourth falters a second and is cut by the soulsword, screaming as the supernatural blade disrupts the demon essence inside.
But despite their skillful defense they are getting surrounded.

"Too many to get past to get their head," the elf notes to Illyana. It seems flippant, but there's a strain to his thoughts and a strain to his motions. His breath is coming is harsh short gasps as he continuely moves, killing and maimng and slowly losing ground. Darkedge is retreating back toward Illy, so they can put their backs to each other.

Strange had hoped Ripclaw would join the adventure, and he sent a couple messages to the shaman. But the messages never reached the destination in time. Subtle curses delayed and altered the communications, and Ripclaw arrived too late to the Oblivion Bar.
But the bartender had a message for him. North Brother Island. That is where the demon lurks.
Getting to the island is not difficult, but once there… nothing seems amiss. Just an few abandoned ruins. Or is there? Ripclaw has keen senses, and mystical talent. It takes him some effort, but he can pierce the illusion.
And upon doing so, he sees North Brother Island is a bubble of perpetual night, where injured spirits and dark ghosts wail in agony, and the stench of black magic is almost overpowering.
Time and space are warped, particularly around the old hospital, the demon dark sanctum. A few thralls patrol the ground, but they are of low intelligence and easily avoided or killed with ambushes. Once in the hospital, Ripclaw can easily catch the trail of the three heroes. Strange came with Darkedge and Illyana.
But was only a minute ago, when Bal-Pteor twists space to bring the intruders to his presence when Ripclaw ‘catches up’ and perhaps still unobserved, as the demon’s eyes are focused in Illyana and Strange.

The Soulsword is proving as satisfyingly effective at breaking spells as always, but Illyana's under no illusions that she can take all of the thralls and their master, even with Darkedge on her side. She only pushed forward enough to cover him, and now she's falling back with him, a step at a time, making the thralls suffer for each of those backward steps. She fights well with a blade, in concert with Darkedge, but she's come to the same depressing conclusion as the elf, and it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. For a moment her attention switches to the demon lord, her eyes narrowing in a malicious, unspoken promise… and she sees him gather his power for another attack on Strange.
Illyana elbows the closest thrall in the face, hard, the polished silver armour making a mess of its teeth, but it's all to gain a breathing space. The Soulsword is thrust toward the ceiling, Illyana yells words of power, and reaches a hand toward Strange.
This time it's her shield that shatters as it stops the blast, and feedback has Illyana choking back a cry of pain. She staggers back another couple of steps. "Stephen." She hisses through gritted teeth. "Your plans are as bad as MINE. Are we leaving?" That question might be a little optimistic - she has no idea if she'll be able to teleport them out.

Strange stands up slowly. “Leaving? But we just got here,” he deadpans. Deprived of most of his power, he needs to rely in cunning instead of ‘holy supreme magic’. Fine, he can do that. “Shield me a few seconds, please,” he asks the blonde.
From the White Scrolls of Ptolomy, section sixteen. The Gold Dagger of Ra.
He chants, while the demon does another attempt to obliterate him with a bolt of shadow lightning. His spells is not quick, he has never used it in combat because he usually has more powerful options.
Dinally, four darks of light burst forward, zigzagging through the chamber to hit Bal-Pteor. But the demon laughs. “That… is pathetic, sorcerer. It was a poorly designed spell two thousand years ago.” A shield of amber materializes around the demon, and three of the darks shatter against it, the fourth misses completely. But it keeps flying.
There is a crashing sound a few yards at the left.
“Now go, both of you! The teleporting ward is broken!” He shouts, “I will take care of these thralls,” maybe without dying, too.

The whole fight, Darkedge had been a quarter second slower than he is usedto being. Too long has he fought using the shadows to step him about his foe that without it he knows he is hampered. He'll work on, just as soon as this thing is dead. And his lungs aren't burning. The sudden return of shadows has the elf drawing a breath, then fighting through a deep-phlemy, chesty sounding cough. Told to go, Darkedge does. The elf vanishes from sight, sinking into a shadow.
Perhaps he ran away.
Perhaps he was just emerging from a shadow just above the demon lord, gemstones in his hands. Seeking to land on the creature's upper back, Darkedge aims for to backstab the beast in the heart or the lung or any vital organ housed in the torso.

A natural stalker Ripclaw doesn't draw attention to himself going through the islands outer defenses, those thralls. He keeps low moves when they're not paying attention to him and takes the easier routes. If they do bar his path he will go for silent takedowns.
The mutant is outfitted for combat, that doesn't say much for him though, that generally just means he goes without a shirt. Cybernetic bi-synth claws glimmer as they catch even ghostlights such as the flicker-fire of cast magics, it's the voices, the fighting, the demon lord that are the Ghost Warrior's target, as Darkedge moves Ripclaw is in motion not high, no he goes low, actually swiping one of those large talons out across the back of the Demon Lord's legs where tendons connect between thigh and calf, just behind knees.
A snarl his only answer or announce to the others that he is now indeed present.

Shield him a few seconds? Illyana just did that, and the experience wasn't pleasant! Being Doctor Strange's apprentice should really come with a health warning. Illyana puts on a sour face, but nods grimly to Strange. She turns and plants herself firmly between the sorcerer and the demon lord, summoning a fresh mystical shield to defend her mentor.
Illyana's shield is tested again, almost immediately, shadow lightning crashing into it. The shield fractures but this time it largely holds - leaving Illyana to suffer the consequences. The force of the strike sends her to one knee, and she hand to ground the tip of her sword in the floor and use it like a crutch to avoid going all the way to the floor. Her silver armour covers more of her body now, an instinctive attempt to protect herself. "You're… not so tough." She says, through gritted teeth, before spoiling her defiance with a quiet "Ow."
Illyana's bracing her shield as best she can, to withstand the inevitable next attack, when… Strange is yelling at her? She's a little slower on the uptake than usual, but then she smiles, her canine teeth looking oddly long and sharp as she does so. "I take it back." She tells the Doctor, then forces herself back to her feet and vanishes into a glowing portal.
Since Darkedge is already attacking from above, Illyana takes the direct approach, her stepping disc opening before the demon lord, the blonde sorceress lunging through it, leading with her blade.

For the first time Bal-Pteor seems… not quite in control. In fact he growls when Strange sends the other two against him. But he taps the floor with Staff of Griefsavor, “no matter, you are less than gnats to me,” a circle of flames forms around him, but Darkedge has already teleported and the jewel weapons rake his back, tearing open the enchanted leather jacket and the demon flesh. They draw little blood, though.
Quick as a tiger, the demon turns and sweeps the air behind him. The magic of the staff would strike the soul harder than the body, but it is still a brutal blow for anyone without supernatural toughness.
Then Ripclaw attacks, actually taking him by surprise! He curses loudly (not that anyone but Illyana understands what he said) as one of his legs is hamstringed. Again, there is little blood, but the supernatural tendons and muscles are still necessary to allow him to move with agility, and now they are gone. At least for a minute or so. “For you… I’ll make a new cage,” he snarls at Ripclaw.
He can’t take vengeance on the shaman, though, as Illyana comes next and with a weapon that could really hurt him. So he steps back and twirls the staff with two hands, deflecting the Soulsword and trying to disarm the young woman. Staff of Griefsavor flares in grey and orange, sparking and twisting as if injured, but it is a major artifact and it can stand the blows of Illyana’s anti-magic blade.
Meanwhile Strange is in trouble. A hasty cast shield stops a few of charging thralls, but there are too many. A claw aimed to the torso meets the Cloak of Levitation and slides harmlessly. Another thrall is tripped and goes facefirst to the floor. But the one just behind lounges forward and slices open the sorcerer’s cheek all the way to the neck, and sends him rolling against a wall.
Strange doesn’t cry or complain. He briefly slides his hand over the wound and slams it against the tiled floor, shouting a world of power. The black magic is pulled towards him, and the thralls stop, startled for a second. More words of power, as the blood spreads over the floor. This is not white magic, it is a dark spell, cast in a nexus of black magic.

Doctor Strange is breaking the rules.
Thorns from the Dark Blood. From the Bloody Vine Tome of Elijah Harkness, page 65. A manual of black witchcraft written late in the Seventeen Century.
Black, hungry tendrils shatter the tiles, absorbing Strange’s blood and finding it too clean, insipid. So they lash out, looking for more tasty sustenance and finding the Thralls. The floor shatters and Strange dives for cover. The thralls are not smart enough to do the same, and the alien plant-like vines fall on them, growing at impossible speed and tearing at the monsters with steel-like thorns. And the usually silent thralls start screaming.

Fire! The light is too bright, just as Darkedge leapt free, leapt for a shadow that was no longer there. Had the shadows still been there, the staff swipe wold have missed cleanly. Had teh shadow been there, Darkedge would not have been flash-blinded.
The staff grazes him, tearing at his soul even as he sends him to a tumble on the floor just beyond the fire's reach. The elf had been keeeping a faint mental link on those with him. Thus, through that link the sheering slam against his soul is felt, the hint of the name that's there, before Darkedge yanks it all back to himself, severing the tenous link and no longer able to suppress the gagging coughs that sound more like far too much fluid build up than a mere throat tickle.
On the floor by the demon, his twin diamond blades glitter in the light that the elf himself recoils from.

Ripclaw rolls through the fire and comes out the other side to the Demon Lord's left, it's flames, they're usually painful and slower to heal even with a regeneration mutant ability; more so by the fact it is magically conjured fire. This does not look so well for them, the creature is powerful. Singularly none of them stand a chance.
The medicine man has no response to the threat of cages, his mind is seeking an abstract route, the clash of weapons between Illyana and their adversary pushes him forward again, blindly however, that natural instinct to fight mingled with consideration for others, a leap through the air and slice of both hands, hands that bleed off in to daggers that further extend with growing rage and exhileration. He knows he is but a mere distraction right now and is fine with that, he'll make sure to be an excellent nuisance.

Illyana's adrenaline - and darker substances within her soul - are rushing through her, driving her to the attack, but she's still suffering the effects of defending Strange from the demon's magic, and adrenaline's not quite enough to make up for it. Her sword thrust is true, but it's not quite as fast as it should be, not as much power behind it as there should be. Illyana snarls as her blade is deflected, but anger doesn't get the better of her. She senses what he's trying to do, and with a roll of her wrist she extracts the Soulsword before the demon can flick it from her grasp.
Illyana takes a half step back, Soulsword in both hands, ready to strike - and hears Darkedge's cough. She'd like nothing more than to finish the demon herself… but she can share. With an impish, spiteful grin, Illyana whirls the Soulsword in her hands, as if she's showing off, making a flashy move before she strikes - and the moment Ripclaw attacks again, she stabs down with the Soulsword, not at the demon, but into the ring of fire surrounding him, aiming to sever the spell that keeps it burning, and get Darkedge back in the fight.

Bal-Pteor can feel Ripclaw coming and shifts right to dodge, but his injured leg fails him. The claws sink deep on his left arm, tearing chunks of unholy flesh. “Enough, begone!” He flares a wide blast of force at the shaman, and gives Illyana the second she needs to shatter the fire spell. “You… who are doomed to darkness, should stop pretending already.” He points at her with the staff. “Show me your true face,” he commands.%r%rMeanwhile, at the other side of the chamber, while the thralls are getting murdered by vampiric vines, Doctor Strange is spilling his guts on the floor. Black magic indigestion is the worst. He will try to help in a minute, or three.

Fire spell shattered, Darkedge hazards a look up. He is needed. Soul and body still reeling, Darkedge pushes himself forward, pulling 10 carat cabachons from the pouches at his belt. A handful.
Gathering as much breath as he can gather, grey-flecked blood staining his lips, the elf steps back into a shadow. Once more going for an attack from the high ground, Darkege shoves himself from the shadow against the ceiling he sent himself to, diving for the demon's face. The back too heavily armored? So be it. Darkedge will risk gnashing teeth and demonic spittle to get a stone flung into the creature's maw. His mind stays locked on the crystal, hoping he can keep himself close enough to shape the jewel through flesh… provided his aim didn't fail him. It rarely does, but one must be ready for any eventuality.
Even the eventuality of needing to cling where the beast can rend him so he can be as near to the crystal as he can so his magic will work. Even the eventuality of needing to trust the claws he created for himself from the myriad of gemstones he pulled with his non-throwing hand dig in and stay while he works.

The wide force blast while mid-lunge isn't something Ripclaw can twist, flip or Spider-Man his way out of. The impact sends him careening through the air to slam in to one of those golden cages and rebound off of it with a meaty thunk in to the floor, the sound of scraping claws says hes not down and out though it looks like the retalition from Bal-Ptor peeled off several layers of forward facing flesh on Ripclaw.
Upright again he runs at the Demon Lord with no mind of his injures, sparks flying up around him from the drag of elongated blades, they're stretching further out as the fight drags on.

Illyana -feels- the Soulsword shatter the spell, banishing the ring of fire protecting Bal-Pteor. It's a good feeling, full of nasty satisfaction, and in the moment she allows herself to enjoy it, Illyana's ensnared by the demon's magic. She feels the pull on her soul, and that part of her soul that's still fully human, still fully -hers-, rebels. It fights, to deny both the pull of the magic and the truth of what's about to be displayed.
Unfortunately, that part of Illyana's soul is in the minority. The rest, that part corrupted by Belasco and filled with black magic, that part feels the demon lord tug at it - and it nearly bites his arm off in its eagerness to be made manifest.
Illyana… changes. Horns erupt from her brow, curling back over her head. Blue eyes become glowing orbs of blank gold. Eye teeth become fangs. She grows in stature, even as her legs shift, becoming reverse-jointed, feet replaced by hooves, while behind her, a long, red, spade-tipped tail lashes.
Glowing eyes fix upon Bal-Pteor, and the Darkchilde's lips draw back in a ghastly smile. "You really think…" She says, even her voice different now, lower and heavy with threat, "…this has made things BETTER for you? You poor fool, who wanted to see what I really was. Let me show you." The Soulsword comes up to her shoulder, held in a two-handed grip, and Illyana charges in.

Smirking at Illyana, the demon almost misses Darkedge’s charge, he grabs the elf mid-leap, his clawed hand closing on his chest with every intention to crush his heart. Ripclaw can replace him in the cages. But Darkedge’s armor protect him the split of a second he needs to stab his face with another magical gem-dagger, taking an eye out.
Bal-Pteor recoils in pain, tossing the Avalonian assassin aside. Then he sees the Darkchilde charging. He didn’t expect that! “Stop, you fool!” The Staff meets the Soulsword again, and he the demon steps back into Ripclaw’s claws, this time they go about six inches deep, tearing at his spine. Making him fall down. “No!”
The next blow of the Soulsword takes his whole right arm, and he loses the staff.
He grins at the demon Illyana. “We will meet again, little demon,” a promise… just a second before she takes his head.
The darkness recedes, and breathing becomes much easier.

Grapped, the elf urks aloud, one of the few sounds he's made. And then he wheezes as his chest is squeezed tight. Darkedge can reach no shadows to help him and with his Queen not on the realm he can not Egress to safety. Hazy spots surround his vision as what light air he had is crushed from him. Hands starting to grow slack, eyes ufocuseing, the elf gasps as he's suddenly released. And then he has that lungful bashed out of him when he hits the vampire's cage before falling to the ground in a barely conscious heap.
Breathing is easier for all by the elf, whose coughing is painful sounding, like a man drowning while at the same time trying not to cough because ribs are cracked and breathing hurts.
For the past two weeks, breathing has hurt for the elf. Thus, however, is worse.

Ripclaw's claws retract shrinking back down to just about the length of fingers which pulls them free of the now decapitated Demon Lord, stepping back his chest rises and falls with the adrenaline, skin pulled back across his chest, face, shoulders, eyelids gone, hair up off of his skull, teeth showing where lips should have been. Magic, the force blast from the Bal-Pteor will take a little bit of time to heal, he'll be uncomfortable for a bit but it'll regenerate after a time. "My invitation was late… " He rasps.
The coughs of Darkedge reminding he should make some more poutice/herbal tea for the elfman and likely himself. He has stronger stuff now if the hallucinogenic properties can be minded.
A look at the open throat-neck of the demon and his eyes settle on the Darkchylde, unsure if she is friend or foe just yet. Not quick to judge the Demonic Tome by it's cover so he'll wait, not fully off his guard just yet. Strange if he is done vomiting bile or Darkedge… who is coughing up whatever might be his own innards…. a lovely picture this is.

"And I will kill you. Again." The Darkchilde tells the severed head, even though the force that animated it is no longer present in the room. "This was too quick, and FAR too pleasant." Glowing eyes narrow thoughtfully, even as the Darkchilde runs her tongue across her fangs. Anticipation has a flavour all of its own, after all. She smiles, and makes a negligent gesture with a hand. A glowing portal appears beneath the head and it falls through the floor, the portal snapping shut behind it.
Why -shouldn't- she have a trophy?
Somehow, though, it's not enough. The hand not holding the Soulsword flexes unconsciously, and the Darkchilde turns back to face the others, sweeping her eyes across the dead thralls with an expression of disappointment. She pauses, raising her head to scent the air like an animal, but it's not Strange's vomit that she's sniffing for. The demoness smiles slowly. "Naughty, Stephen. Aren't you supposed to be setting an example?" She takes a step toward the Sorcerer Supreme, hooves loud on the floor, then stills when she hears Darkedge coughing. Slowly, her head turns, blank eyes regarding Ripclaw. "You look terrible." Her gaze drops to Darkedge. "And you could at least die quietly." She tells him, and starts to turn away.
Something, though, something won't let her do it. Her body turns a few degrees, but her eyes don't leave the fallen elf. "No." The word is reluctantly spoken, as if dragged out of her. "This isn't what I want. No!" The last is said sharply, and the Darkchilde reverses the Soulsword - and plunges it into her own chest.
There's no blood, no blade exiting her back messily, there's just a moment where it seems that two images - the blonde and and demon - are struggling to resolve into one, and then Illyana's back in her human form. Icy blue eyes move between the other three. "We're not talking about this." She tells them, and drops to her knees beside Darkedge. "Stephen?" She calls to the Sorcerer Supreme. "You'd better get over here or I'll have to risk taking him to Limbo."

Strange stands up, looking a little green around the edges, his face badly torn and still bleeding. “Well,” he wheezes, “a master mage knows the rules and when to break them.” He coughs weakly and steps forward, smiling faintly at the demon queen.
He was going to try a speech, but Illyana manages to vanish her own demon by herself. Wonderful, he lives to see things like this.
“A hard-won victory,” he states, picking up the Staff of Griefsavor. It hisses. “Let me bring you all to my Sanctum, where we can heal and recover.” Sunlight is already beginning to filter, as the room returns to normal. Cages with dead supernatural beings fall to the floor in macabre disorder. Obviously he will have to return soon to do some damage control, but he needs some healing himself first.
The teleporting spell is more pleasant than Magik’s stepping disks.

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